Thanksgiving shouldn’t bankrupt you. Not if you play it smart.


Here’s how:


Do a poll

Before you buy a single solitary item for Thanksgiving dinner, contact every invited guest to find out what their favorite food is. When you have the list complete, there’s your dinner! Don’t buy cranberry sauce if no one mentioned it. Don’t bake a pumpkin pie if it’s not on the list. Instead, if people say they love mashed potatoes — then make sure you have tons of it. Or green bean casserole? Make two! This way there are no leftovers to worry about, and everyone is happy because they got at least one of their favorite dishes this year.


Be a locavore

If it grows in your own garden, harvest it and utilize it for Thanksgiving dinner. Squash, carrots, or kale — your guests will be delighted to know you got it fresh from the garden (or your freezer). And you’ll be delighted to save a few dollars. Plus, think about doing a vegetarian dinner this year — it helps the environment and saves you some major bucks.


Think small

Using smaller dinner plates cuts down on indigestion, and also waste. People tend not to leave anything behind on a small plate. And they’re easier to wash.


‘Leftovers’ is not a dirty word.

Not if you’ve got some tried and true recipes for things like turkey soup or turkey enchiladas. And if you just don’t feel like dealing with leftovers this year, have some big plastic freezer bags handy to shovel in the leftovers and give to family and friends to take home. INSIST on it. Sometimes you’ve got to be firm, but it’s for a good cause — your own sanity.


Make it from scratch

If you were smart enough to plan ahead and cooked and froze your Halloween pumpkins, you’ve got your pumpkin pies halfway done! Keep those heels of stale bread in the freezer and pull them out to make your own stuffing. Wait for cranberries to go on sale, then get a quart to make your own cranberry sauce. You’ll save money and impress your guests with your homemaking skills.


Make it a potluck

You do the turkey, and everyone else brings one dish to fill out the menu. A lot of people have a favorite dish they like to make and display, so you’re not being lazy or cheap — you’ve providing your guests with an opportunity to express themselves!


Save on heat

If you live in a northern climate it’s going to be cold and your heat will be one; but since you’ve got the oven going all day and lots of extra bodies in the house, you can turn down the thermostat and no one will even notice. In fact, it’ll probably make things more comfortable inside.


Hunt for the bargains

They’re out there, with grocery store coupons and through warehouse memberships. Now is the time to peruse store circulars like they are a textbook you’re using to cram for a college course. You’ll be surprised how many food items go on sale this time of year.


You’re not running a cocktail lounge.

Many homes this year will forgo the serving of alcohol altogether, often because one or more guests is struggling with a drinking problem. But if you decide on some adult holiday cheer, don’t try to be a stellar bartender. Just stock a few basic items. And you can get away with a box of wine instead of several bottles of pricier stuff. Especially if you keep it in the kitchen and pour it yourself.


Don’t forget the dollar store!

Get all your decorations and paper plates, etc., there. Or, better yet, make your own Thanksgiving decorations. This is especially helpful if you have kids around; you get them to do it. It keeps them busy and out of your hair and guests won’t dare criticize a kid’s artwork, no matter how lousy it is!